The 4IR (fourth industrial revolution) flags the transition from simple digitisation in the third industrial revolution to disruptive innovation through a combination of digital technologies and platforms. These technologies are changing the ways companies will do business across the manufacturing, services, and agriculture sectors.
The 4IR presents an opportunity for women to build skill sets needed to succeed in the future of work. Specific targets of SDG 5 for Gender Equality calls for action to ensure equal participation of women in all spheres of life, including economic participation.
“The inequality in employment exacerbates in the presence of social and cultural barriers including stereotyped gender roles forcing a larger proportion of the Indian women to take up semi-skilled and/or low paying jobs,” says Shashi Shankar President – GCNI & CMD, ONGC Group of Companies, in the Deloitte report: Opportunity or Challenge? Empowering Women and Girls in India for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The total Indian workforce had only 23.3% of the women in 2017−18. A large number of these working women face challenges in continuing with their jobs when family life takes precedence. Such career breaks make it difficult for women to return to the workforce.
Online learning portals offering upskilling courses are a great opportunity for women who want to enter the workforce with enhanced skill sets. A learning platform that is witnessing a surge in female enrolment is a case in point. UpGrad Education Private Limited was launched in March 2015 by Ronnie Screwvala, Mayank Kumar, Ravijot Chugh, and Phalgun Kompalli, with a vision of ‘building careers of tomorrow’.
The programmes are delivered in association with established academic partners such as the International Institute of Information Technology (Bangalore), Mudra Institute of Communication (Ahmedabad), the University of Cambridge Judge Business School Executive Education, the Institute of Management Technology (Ghaziabad), and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (Pilani).
The percentage of female enrolment was a meagre 9% in 2016, which increased significantly to 24% in 2018. In this period, growth in the number of female candidates surpassed growth for male candidates by a factor of 3.72x. The portal envisages a further increase in women enrolment in 2019. According to the trends until February 2019, women constituted 27% of the total enrolment.
The journey of Manisha highlights the importance of such credible technology learning platforms. She had a dream of working in the ‘Big Data’ space, which got lost somewhere managing responsibilities of a family and as a mother. After giving birth, Manisha was freelancing from home for four years. When she finally started exploring full-time positions, her profile did not interest any company.
That time, she came across BITS Pilani’s PG programme in Big Data Engineering, offered in collaboration with UpGrad. The name of an esteemed academic partner made her enrol in the programme. Manisha worked on her resume and prepared for interviews with guidance from her mentor. As a result, she is currently working with a renowned online education portal in India.
Prasasthy shares a similar narrative. She was working as a software developer when she went on a maternity break. She was aware that resuming her career would now come with its fair share of challenges. Prasasthy enrolled in UpGrad’s PG programme in Data Science, offered in collaboration with IIIT Bangalore, and used her son’s playschool hours to finish modules.
Manisha and Prasasthy are not alone in their struggle. Women trying to make a career transition or looking at upskilling face inherent challenges. An upskilling portal, such as UpGrad, Khan Academy, edX and Udemy allow for greater flexibility in managing work-life balance. They also help women gain a new skill set and explore growth opportunities. These two women are classic role models who prove that it will never be too late to go back to work as long as one is focused on self-growth.